DZG in BIAZA’s Top 10

DZG’s work to help safeguard the future of one of the country’s rarest arachnid Is featured in a new report highlighting how UK zoos are supporting native species.

Photo credit: Ian Hughes

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) has compiled a list of the top ten native species benefiting from the aid of its members in the UK and Ireland.

And DZG’s work with the Fen raft spider (Dolmedes plantarius) has been recognised as vital for the survival of this species which is classed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

BIAZA Director, Dr Kirsten Pullen, said: “Most people equate zoos and aquariums to holding and protecting animals that are exotic to the UK. What is not well known is that not only do modern zoos do considerable amounts of conservation work globally, they also provide their skills and resources to help wildlife at home.”

DZG joined forces with nine other UK zoos in 2011 to co-ordinate a project which involved zoo keepers acting as foster parents to 2,450 fen raft spiderlings for two months.

The national porgramme, for which we were awarded a gold award in the BIAZA 50th Anniversary awards in June, involved staff having to feed and care for the babies in test tubes until they were strong enough to be released into their natural habitat.

DZG Conservation Officer, Chris Leeson, said: “There are only three known populations of fen raft spiders living in Norfolk, East Sussex and South Wales, so projects like the one we were involved with increases their slim survival chances in the wild to over 90 per cent and monitoring of these sites in the years since has shown established populations, which is great news.”


BIAZA’s top ten native species benefitting from UK zoos and aquariums:

Hazel dormouse – This endangered animal is now protected by law and has become extinct in almost half the UK counties due to loss of woodland and hedgerows.

Red-billed chough – A bird in the crow family, it is restricted to the west of the British Isles. 

White-clawed crayfish – The only freshwater crayfish indigenous to England.

Eurasian beaver – It became extinct in the UK 400 years ago due to over-hunting, but a groundbreaking study to explore how beavers could enhance and restore natural environments is taking place in Scotland. 

Agile frog – Jersey is the only place in the British Isles where this frog species can be found. 

Cirl bunting – A small farmland bird found in South Devon, expansion is prohibited by farming and urban development.

Water vole – Considered Britain’s fastest declining mammal, the species once a regular sight along British waterways has undergone a catastrophic decline.

Common crane – An iconic wetland bird that was once widespread in Britain, but habitat loss and hunting led to its extinction as a breeding bird.

Strapwort – A critically endangered plant, it is restricted to just Slapton Ley in Devon. 

Fen raft spider – One of the UK’s biggest arachnids, it is a semi-aquatic species and can span 70mm in size.